Why Do Some Victims of Abuse Wait Years to Speak Up?
I can’t speak for any other abuse victim, but I can speak for myself. When the physical abuse was happening as a teenager, I told two close friends, and two boys that I had grown up with. One of my friends tried to help me runaway. If I’d had $80 I would have taken a Greyhound to Ohio. But still, maybe I wouldn’t have. I’d been caught called social services. I was convinced by my abuser that life would be much harder in the foster system. I do agree that the chances of that are high, but maybe I would have been placed with another family member. The other friend asked her family if I could move in with them, because she saw the bruises that I had. They almost let me, but were afraid of the retaliation. (This family remembers what happened to me.) I don’t know if the two teenage boys remember, but one was rather infuriated about it.
Then for whatever reason, when I was 17, the physical abuse stopped. I still had to deal with not being allowed to create boundaries, which has caused a lot of social issues in my own life, because I really struggle with creating them healthily. I’m better than I was, but let’s just say narcissists and I don’t get along very well now that I can spot them.
Anyway, besides my husband, I didn’t tell anyone for years what happened to me as a child. Even in April, when I was forced to address these issues inside myself, I started writing in a journal. I thought that I would come out with about 10 pages of abusive instances, but it ended up being 50 pages before I stopped. I remembered more as time went on, but it exhausted me to write it down anymore.
So, why didn’t I make a big stink about it then? For one, my abuser had me secluded at home most of the time. Secondly, the person also had me in a similarly authoritarian church and school environment. They wouldn’t have done anything. I knew that even then.
Why didn’t I speak up in my 20s? I was still in that same church environment. I even tried to mention it in a counseling session at church. The pastor and his wife told me that they didn’t want to hear about it! We left that church when I was 28.
Why didn’t I speak up in my 30s? I did at the end of my 30’s, nearly 40 years old. For one, because of that abusive female figure in my life, I kept developing relationships, church, business and friendships, with abusive narcissistic females. I was busy dealing with the repercussions of the abuse from these women, and didn’t have time to deal with the root of the issue: the abuse inflicted by the original abuser. Plus, it was family. I needed to honor family. I needed to forgive. I needed to respect my family.
Really, I lost myself in trying to please someone who was and is never pleased with anything that I do that is contrary to their own opinion. By the grace of God, I’ve found confidence. By His grace, I was able to attribute this abuse to terrible humans and see that God was different than that. Even now, there is an attempt to shame me for speaking up. Before speaking up there was shame because the abuser made me feel like I was never good enough.
So, I’m not going to ask “Why all this time?” concerning other victims, because it took me over 2 decades to come to terms that I was abused. Quite frankly, it isn’t my job unless I am a decision-maker in the situation. It’s my job to be human and express empathy. It’s my job to pray for healing. It’s my job to hope for peace. God knows we all need it.